Dirty Intimacy

People hoping for better sex in their marriages or long-term relationships often talk about developing deeper intimacy. Well, not all intimacy is created equal and the dirty kind can have a horrible impact on your sex life. By dirty intimacy, I mean the kind of intimacy that demands a certain response from your partner. “When people say they want deep and profound intimacy, they usually envision a bottomless pool of unconditional positive regard, trust, security and acceptance—in other words, other-validated intimacy.” (p.105) I call it dirty because it comes with a cost —If I share with you and you had better…..— Dirty intimacy reaches a limit as soon as one partner says something that the other cannot affirm, agree with, or match in their own experience.  This severely limits the allowable topics between partners, and this blocks the growth of clean intimacy.

With clean intimacy, people are able to disclose about themselves even if their partner disagrees or responds in a way they don’t like. Schnarch refers to this as self-validating intimacy, or intimacy that does not demand the partner’s OK. Long-term relationships require the development of clean intimacy so that couples can disclose about topics and subject matter in their relationship that the other may not like! Think about it, difficult topics need to be discussed in long-term relationships or couples slide into patterns of falseness or intractable stand-offs. In couples’ therapy, seeing breakthroughs in clean intimacy can be especially gratifying to watch. When a person can find the courage to express who they really are to their spouse no matter what response may come, there is an aliveness and strength in that person that is difficult to describe. Sometimes that aliveness is threatening to the other, but other times, it just amazes them. They are awed and wowed by their husband or wife in a way they haven’t been for a long time.

Clean intimacy helps us to be “accurately known by (our) partners”. And as we individually grow, we are in a better position to receive our partners for who they honestly are and are becoming. What freedom! Clean intimacy allows for the ability to offer and receive our truest selves to one another. And that, my friends, is a real turn-on!

How do you have clean intimacy in your relationship? 

The quotes are from Dr. David Schnarch’s book, Intimacy and Desire. It is my resource of the month and you can read my review by clicking here. 

One comment


  • Dan McWilliams

    Please tell me we have clean intimacy. We do, right? RIGHT?

    November 1, 2012

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